Nigeria + 2 more

IRIN Update 671 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 22-40-4440
Fax: +225 22-40-4435

NIGERIA: Ijaws, Itsekiris end conflict in Warri

Ijaws and Itsekiris, who have been at war with each other since 1997 over the relocation of a local government headquarters in Warri, southeast Nigeria, have agreed to end their conflict, state-owned Nigerian Television Authority reported on Tuesday.

A group of leaders of the Ijaw, Itsekiri and neighbouring Isoko communities met Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja and informed him of their decision. The delegation, led by Gabriel Mabeaku, an Itsekiri chief, told reporters they had agreed to work together in the larger interest of their people.

Mabeaku said the communal violence, which characterised life in the southeast throughout much of 1999, had forced investors out of the oil town of Warri, creating hardships for all communities in the area. The ethnic leaders have now pledged to support investors willing to return to the area, saying that their youths, to whom the violence was attributed,
were now with them.

NIGERIA: Dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in part of Osun State

The governor of the south-western state of Osun, Adebisi Akande, has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the Yoruba communities of Ife and Modakeke to stem six days of violence over land rights.

In a broadcast on Osun State radio and television, he said the curfew would be effective from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (17:00 GMT to 05:00 GMT).

'The Guardian' reported on Wednesday that at least 32 people were killed and over 100 homes burnt down. Many other businesses, including banks and hotels, were damaged. State Police Commissioner Johnson Nwoye narrowly escaped death when attacked at Odo-Okun. The commander of the Ife Division of the police, Ade Sinaba, was injured in the cross fire between the two communities, the Lagos newspaper said.

Police have created a buffer zone between the communities so that they can clear roads leading to the scene of the clashes. The BBC reported that schools remained closed and that streets were unusually deserted.

Yoruba leaders met representatives of both communities on Tuesday to calm tempers and broker reconciliation, Ife community spokesman Orayemi Orafidiya told AFP. Frederic Fasehun and Beko Ransom-Kuti of the pan-Yoruba nationalist organisation, the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), told community leaders they needed to keep the peace so that Nigeria's nascent democracy would survive after 15 years of straight military rule.

Fasehun is the founder and leader of a faction of the OPC and Ransome-Kuti (brother of late musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) is treasurer. Both men were imprisoned under the regime of General Sani Abacha, who ruled Nigeria from 1993 to his death in 1998.

NIGERIA: Governors in south and east take steps to protect lives

State officials in eastern and southern Nigeria have tried to reassure northerners resident in their areas that adequate security has been taken to protect their lives and properties following the recent deaths of hundreds of Muslims in predominantly Christian areas.

Police and other security agencies mounted a 24-hour surveillance in the eastern state of Enugu where 5,000 northerners, fearing more sectarian violence, have sought refuge at the 82 army division base, state television reported on Monday.

The Muslims fled attacks staged in Imo and Abia states in retaliation against the killing of Christians in the north.

Anambra State Governor Chinwoke Nbadinuju told traditional rulers, council chairmen and town officials that his state would provide non-indigenes adequate security. Nbadinuju, accompanied by special projects minister Dan Chuke, visited northerners who had taken refuge at the 302 Field Artillery Regiment in the eastern trading city of Onitsha.

In Akwa Ibom State, Deputy Governor Chris Ekpenyong told northerners who had fled to the state police headquarters that they could return to their homes because their protection was assured.

In Rivers State, Governor Peter Odili said his administration would make all resources available to secure lives and property there.

NIGERIA: State to spend 6.5 million naira to fight river blindness

The Enugu State government has promised to spend at least 6.5 million naira (US $64,229) to eradicate guinea worm in the state, 'The Guardian' reported on Wednesday.

State Commissioner for Public Utilities Nnolim Nnaji told reporters that as part of its plan to wipe out the parasite, the administration would repair its two machines used for digging boreholes and rehabilitate two operational vehicles used for routine maintenance. He said as soon as the machines were repaired, the state would give priority to the worm-affected areas by providing residents with potable water.

ENVIRONMENT: Obasanjo appeals to UN to save Lake Chad

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has appealed to the United Nations Development Programme and other international agencies for help in reversing the gradual recession of Lake Chad.

In a speech delivered on Monday by Defence Minister Theophilus Danjuma in Abuja at the opening of the 47th session of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, he said it was imperative to halt the degradation of the lake, once the world's sixth largest, 'The Guardian' newspaper of Lagos reported.

"Your vision for the people of the Lake Chad basin must have at its core the security and well-being of the suffering masses as well as the unity of the member-nations," he said.

Members states of the commission, formed in 1964 to ensure optimal use of the lake basin's water resources, are Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The commission is also supposed to coordinate the
planning and implementation of all regional projects of the lake basin, review complaints and help settle disputes.

As a result of persistent drought since the 1960s, the lake has shrunk to one-tenth of its size. A project has been launched to save it but the commission lacks money. "Member countries, therefore, have to pay their contributions on time," Obasanjo said.

SIERRA LEONE: Humanitarian access still limited

Humanitarian agencies do not have access to seven out of 12 districts in Sierra Leone, the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) said in a 7 March situation report.

The districts, Bombali, Tonkolili, Kambia, Kailahun, Koinadugu, and Port Loko, in the northern region and Kono in the east, make up 80 of Sierra Leone's 149 chiefdoms and have a total population of some 2.4 million people. Operations in these areas, which are mainly limited to emergency relief, are carried out under very difficult circumstances and are characterised by frequent disruptions and uncertainty. Assistance programmes aimed at rehabilitation and reconstruction of devastated communities "await more favourable conditions", HACU said.

In contrast to much of the north, Southern Province, Western Area and some parts of Eastern Province are relatively safe, resulting in programmes of reconstruction and rehabilitation in agriculture, education, road rehabilitation and restoration of health facilities, HACU reported. The police force and traditional chiefs are in place in some of these areas, helping to maintain law and order.

SIERRA LEONE: Urgent humanitarian priorities

In most areas assessed by humanitarian agencies the priorities for urgent intervention include: the rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities, agricultural support especially in the northern and eastern regions, rehabilitation and support for the health sector, and close monitoring of the food security situation, particularly in rural areas.

Other urgent priorities, the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) said in its latest situation report, are: rehabilitating the educational infrastructure and providing learning materials, reinforcing bridges and arterial routes before the start of the rainy season in April, closely monitoring returning refugees and internally displaced persons, and increased support to the DDR process to facilitate access.

SIERRA LEONE: Tension between UNAMSIL and RUF

The relationship between UNAMSIL troops and Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front Party is tense at the moment, HACU reported on 7 March.

On 25 February, UNAMSIL told the parties to last year's Lome peace agreement to stop obstructing the movements of UN peacekeepers as they deploy across the country. The warning - which was not the first of its kind - followed "numerous occasions" on which peacekeepers have been blocked by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) manning "illegal roadblocks", a UNAMSIL statement issued in Freetown said. "This is despite repeated assurances from RUF leader Foday Sankoh that all such roadblocks would be removed," the statement added

The RUF's refusal to allow UNAMSIL to deploy in key areas has not only reduced hopes of improved security conditions, but has also raised concerns over a possible military confrontation which could increase the dangers faced by aid workers on the ground, HACU said. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, has warned Sankoh that continued violation of the peace accord would invite a "forceful response".

Over 7,000 of the approved 11,100 UNAMSIL troops are on the ground and forces have been deployed to Makeni, Port Loko, Lungi, Daru, and Kenema. However there has been little or no progress in disarmament in the northern and eastern parts of the country, with the exception of Port Loko District, according to HACU. In the eastern town of Daru, fewer than 100 people have been disarmed, most of them ex-Sierra Leonean army soldiers wishing to be considered for the new army. The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme (DDR) has not yet started in Makeni as DDR
officials were unable to secure existing facilities for the encampment of the former fighters. Two sites have been identified, but construction, due to begin this month, will take some 4-6 weeks, HACU said.

Rebel checkpoints have been re-established in the Makeni area but despite this, the RUF has given assurances that aid agencies would be granted free access. So far these promises have been kept but the situation there remains volatile, HACU said.

LIBERIA: Ex-fighters stage protest in capital

Hundreds of former fighters protested in the capital Monrovia on Monday accusing the leadership of their association of embezzling some US $100,000, Star radio reported on Tuesday.

The demonstrators, ex-combatants from Liberia's civil war, attacked their head office and removed the leadership, replacing it with an interim body. The former leaders are also accused of misusing the organisation's vehicle for commercial purposes. The ex-coordinator of the combatants association, Eric Meyers, has denied the allegations.

The money was donated to the former combatants association by private sources, Star reported the demonstrators as saying.

Abidjan, 8 March 2000; 17:06 GMT


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